Asbury Park, New Jersey.

local love

local love

what does it mean to design architecture that “keeps it local”?

David Brooke Robinson


April 10, 2021

One of the core principals in draw’s simple architecture manifesto is “keep it local”, which is to say that we should always design in a way that “connects us to the places we live”, and where we ask the question, “how do we respect the locale, its history, and its culture?”

With that said, I’d like to take a moment and talk a little bit about what it means to design architecture that “keeps it local”, especially when it comes to designing for a resilient coastal life.

First off, it seems that the world is shrinking. Well, not actually shrinking in the physical sense. Yet, we are becoming more and more of a global community every moment. And the benefits of this global movement can be quite wonderful.

Today, through digital communications and high-speed travel, among other things, we can much more easily connect with each other, share information, and gain access to knowledge on a scale never before thought possible. I mean, you can probably get a McDonald’s hamburger in virtually any country in the world. But, is that really a good thing?

When far from home, it’s nice to know that you can have a familiar experience, when feeling a pang of homesickness. However, I would suggest that the unique qualities and characteristics of a particular place and culture are really the things that create lasting meaning, significance, and memory for those who live in and visit these places.

Graphic at Island Beach State Park, NJ. Each beach seems to have its own local identity.

So often, we dream of traveling to far away destinations, where a unique combination of landscape, geology, weather, people, culture, history, and visual beauty, beckon our call. In fact, it is that unique quality of a place that speaks to us. It is the powerful memories of those places that stay with us and become the foundation of the stories we tell for years on end.

These unique characteristics of place are also at the root of people’s devotion for the communities we call home. I am often inspired by the passion and dedication people express for their hometown, their region, their country, or even a particular beach or surf spot along the coast.

These special locales are where generations of families are raised, where land has been tilled for years on end, where homes and businesses are built, where experiences are had and memories are made that cannot be had or made in the same way, anywhere else on our planet. And it is exactly that uniqueness and “localness” that is essential to a particular place and experience.

For draw, really good architecture is also unique to a particular place and people. It’s “local” if you will. Rather than regurgitate historical styles, popular real estate trends, or pastiche approaches, we design places that are good for people and the communities in which they reside; places that provide an easy, relaxed approach to living, with flexible, adaptable spaces that are beautiful, comfortable, and hardworking.

Really good buildings also fit well on the land. These are not huge, over-scaled behemoths we’re talking here. They are sized right (read: quality not quantity) and scaled appropriately to their landscapes and neighborhoods. They orient themselves to take advantage of the warmth of the sun, while also reaching out to embrace natural cooling breezes or shield against the cold winds of winter. They sit lightly on the land yet sturdily on the soil.

This modern shingled gift shop on Long Beach Island (LBI), NJ speaks to the idea of island life, with outdoor spaces and a touch of color.

Really good buildings also provide a meaningful frame for living, making strong visual and physical connections to the environments in which they reside…a sort of inside/outside living, if you will. Openings connect between the two, or frame a particularly spectacular view, or might even be aimed to track the path of the moon, all while retaining privacy where it matters most.

Really good buildings are durable and use simple, locally sourced, environmentally considered materials (sorry, we’re not fans of vinyl siding at all, that s*#t is toxic!). They are also thoughtfully detailed with consideration for the unique challenges offered by their particular environments.

Really good buildings are good for the earth (and your wallet, by the way!) They are energy efficient, and also can be more healthy, comfortable, and quieter than conventionally designed buildings. And there are many paths available to help people move away from grid dependency and the associated costs, a super independent-minded approach…and a super resilient strategy!

So, as we continue the conversation about architecture, design and living in a way that “keeps it local”, we look forward to sharing stories about the many local people, places, and design ideas that influence and shape the wonderful coastal land on which we live.